The folks at BitTorrent Labs have just pulled the wraps off their latest peer-to-peer software offering and it has nothing to do with file sharing (legal or otherwise). BitTorrent Chat Alpha is described by its makers as “a pre-Alpha experiment in server-less messaging.” The experiment uses a encrypted peer-to-peer network to send messages back and forth between users. What separates it from the rest of the so-called encrypted message pack is that there is no server involved and messages are not saved anywhere, which would make things very difficult for our friends at the NSA.
It has previously been shown that the NSA is more likely to investigate encrypted messages, which makes BitTorrent Chat Alpha seem like it might be vulnerable – however, the lack of any central server adds a massive layer of difficulty to their efforts. In order for the NSA and company to be able to intercept an encrypted message, they have to know where to look. When you have a central server and you are using conventional messaging protocols, things are easy – because they know where to look. With a decentralized peer-to-peer network, things are a lot tougher because they do not necessarily know where to look.
Back to that thing about the special attention that the NSA and others pay to encrypted messages. While I am sure that they have the ability to decrypt anything that comes there way, to do so takes extra time, effort and computing power. Imagine how much tougher things would be for the people involved if everyone encrypted everything – no matter how trivial.